Last Monday, we celebrated the 156th birth anniversary of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Together with Andres Bonifacio, they are primus inter pares among the ranks of our nation’s heroes.
What is common to Rizal and Bonifacio, among many qualities, is their courage. Different contexts, but one virtue: the courage that made them live heroic lives.
Our readings for this Sunday speak of courage. Jeremiah derives this from entrusting his cause to the Lord. The psalmist, in a very poignant expression of trust—“Lord, in your great love, answer me”—gives encouragement to the downtrodden.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, is more forthright in referring to the overflowing grace of God in Christ, Christ who in turn gives a solid reassurance: “Fear no one … And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul … do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
All of these refer to the courage that comes from faith. This, though, is a chicken-and-egg “dilemma;” which came first, the faith that gives rise to courage or the courage that makes one believe?
The opening line of today’s Gospel gives us a possible way out of this causality dilemma: “Fear no one.” From this, Christ continues and builds it up to a climax: “You are worth more than many sparrows.”
This thought echoes Parker Palmer’s assertion that we come into this world whole and integrated, then spend the first half of our life unravelling or disintegrating through both benign and malevolent “traumas” or “ruptures” in our wholeness.
The many expectations from our many roles and of various persons in our life, the social norms that at times go to the extreme of conformity and break a person’s individuality, if not his or her spirit—all these, Palmer says, make us wear other people’s masks. We lose our sense of self or self-confidence. We develop many fears.
Many spiritual writers say that the enemy of faith is not doubt but fear. It takes courage to overcome fear and to restore faith. Fear makes us lose faith or perhaps, more accurately, fear prevents us from tapping into our faith, from believing in ourselves and what is the best in us.
We believe in ourselves, having faith in our goodness and talents and believing that all these—including our shortcomings, failures and brokenness—are ours because we have a mission. This is the wholeness that Palmer refers to; we come into this world whole because we, too, were sent for a mission: to make the world a little better.
It is from this faith in ourselves and our mission that the courage to live out this mission comes, the courage that made Rizal do his work that culminated in Bagumbayan and the courage that led Bonifacio to found the Katipunan and lead the armed resistance that, again, culminated in his death in the mountains of Maragondon. It is the courage of the martyrs who refused to renounce their faith.
Fear divides us. Individual fear disintegrates us and prevents us from believing in ourselves as being endowed with a mission and a call to service. A community’s fear prevents us from creating a communion “rooted and grounded in love” and fueled by a shared dream and aspiration for a better world for all—God’s Kingdom of justice, peace and love—built by men and women living lives of mission and service.
We look around us—in our communities, beyond our shores, to the west and to the east, north, south—and we see so much violence, killings, destruction, hatred, etc. And beneath all these is the insidious agenda to strike fear. Fear remains the most effective tool for evil to divide, conquer and rule.
Christ reminds us to believe in ourselves because we are precious to him and his Father. God believed in us first.
“Fear no one” in your search for the truth of who you are— your blessings and your shortcomings, your triumphs and your failures, your mission and your call to service.
“Fear no one” in living your life to know and to fulfill your mission and to live it out in the service of others and of God. —CONTRIBUTED